A Sermon Delivered by ROBERT BARCLAY At A Mission Hall Service, 1869.
Sermons of Robert Barclay, Edited By His Widow, Sarah Matilda Fry Barclay. London: Hodder and Stroughton, 1878, pages 176-188.

This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 3: The 19th Century.

"And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Forgive them; for they know not what they do. And the people stood beholding."--Luke 23:33-35.

This scene really took place upon "God's earth." No one has ever doubted that the scene described in these verses really did take place. The greatest infidels, the most daring doubters, the greatest enemies of' the religion of Jesus, have never denied that this was the greatest event that ever happened in the world. That Jesus lived, that Jesus died, and that Jesus now has "a name which is above every name," are facts. Ask what power for good the world's great soldiers, great statesmen, or great philosophers, have left behind them, after eighteen hundred years; and whether you are a Christian or not, the more~fully you know the more fully you will admit that their power for good is as a shadow which passeth away, compared with the name and the power of Jesus. Men may scoff at him and revile him, but his kingdom over the minds of men is becoming greater and greater every day.

As Christians, we believe that "He must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet;" that "at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that lie is Lord," either now in the day of His unutterable love and mercy, or in the day of His power hereafter. Our subject this evening is Christ's death. Be very sure that nothing I can say will make it more of a living reality to us than it was to those who saw it--more solemnly, more awfully true, than it is to you and to me, poor sinful men. There were many who went out of the gates of the city of Jerusalem to see that crucifixion. They were men of like passions with us. What, for instance, was that sight to the cold, hard-hearted, scoffing Jew, careless about all religion? the man whose only thoughts were about the things of' this life, "What shall we eat, what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?" As there are people now who think this is the only thing that concerns them, so there were then. But such persons generally agree that a man must besides all this have some amusement. This was why this Jew (whom I shall take as a representative of many) listened to Jesus. There were many such as the one I shall describe; Jews who were Jews outwardly, but who were not inwardly and really the people of God. I can more easily describe to you the life of Jesus, and the feelings of multitudes, and what they saw and heard, if I select one out of the multitude. We think of this man, then, as one who had seen much of Jesus during the last three years of His life. Jesus had given him something which broke the dull, careworn, wretched round of that sinful and weary life which finds its all in eating, drinking, clothing, and amusing itself, without a thought of preparing for a never-ending eternity.

Thousands had pressed around to hear Jesus speak, and this Jew had gone with the crowd, for he loved the excitement of the hour. Whenever and wherever the people were, Jesus found them. Was it in the morning or in the evening, he was among them; was it a Passover, was it a feast-day, he was there. He lost no opportunity "of doing good, and healing all who were oppressed of the devil." Try to picture the various scenes where Jesus preached--on the hill-side, by the. road-side, in the streets and open places of the city. When this short sentence, among others, for weary souls was uttered, "Come unto me all ye that labour and heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" and again when the words, "Behold a sower went forth to sow," sounded in accents soft and clear over the heads of the multitude, this Jew heard them. Then he missed sense part of the discourse, and again the words broke sharply on his ear, "Some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up." On another occasion he hears Christ saying, "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life." You may be sure he thought, "Surely Jesus has sees how I spent last night, in drunkenness and unhallowed pleasure." He was right. Jesus Christ was perfect God and perfect man. He had seen it all, and tie sees all which a single night casts its veil over, in yonder great city. One day this Jew heard the words clearly,--too clearly for his peace of mind,--" These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." This man knew he was not righteous, Jesus looked on him as He said pleadingly, "It is better for thee to enter into lite with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire, where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched." It was spoken as a man might plead with a sleeper to arise and escape for his life. It told him the plain and awful truth that he had a soul created for an eternity of joy, and that he must give up all his dearest vices, or lose his soul.

The people who had a short time before received this Jesus as a king and welcomed Him to Jerusalem with Hosannas--who had cried, "Blessed is He that cometh in tile name of the Lord"--who had cut down branches from the palm trees, and spread them and their garments in tile way--were now stirred up by the chief priests. They seized him after Judas had betrayed him, and they led him away to Pilate the Roman governor, and begged him to put Jesus to death, on the false charge that he was encouraging people to resist the payment of tribute or taxes to the Romans, and that He claimed to be a acting in opposition to the Roman Emperor. Pilate, having heard that Jesus was a Galilean, sent Him to Herod the king of Galilee. Herod sent Jesus back again, and to show that he thought the charge only fit to be ridiculed, he sent Him back again, arrayed in mockery with a splendid kingly purple robe. At last the question is to be decided: Pilate takes his place at the judgment seat; the crowd again rush together; Jesus comes forth wearing the purple robe and crowned with a crown of thorns; Pilate cries, "Behold the man! I find no fault in Him. Behold your King! I will therefore release Him and let Him go." Listen to the shout of the crowd: "Away with Him! crucify Him! not this man, but Barabbas." "Now Barabbas was a robber." Did the Jew, of whom we have spoken, want the meek and gentle Jesus to be his king? No: he and his countrymen wanted the promised Messiah to come as a worldly king, who would have delivered Israel from the power of Rome. But Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." Otherwise they would willingly have made Him their king. Pilate again pleaded, "Shall I crucify your King?" The crowd is angry--" We have no king but Caesar. If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend. He that maketh himself a king speaketh against Caeser."

Ah! there is always one point where the thoroughgoing man of the world fails. Pilate well knew that his deeds would not bear inspection at the court of Caesar, the Emperor of Rome. His weak point was there. You, who sin secretly, who sin prudently, you who sin a little, and think you wilt escape the consequences of that sin, remember Pilate. He would have acted rightly. God strengthened his disposition to do so. He appealed to him by his conscience. He caused Pilate's wife to dream a fearful dream, and to beg him, "Have thou nothing to do with that Just Man." He made Pilate tremble before the words of Him who was the Truth itself. And when his Prisoner told him, "Thou couldst have no power at all against me, unless it were given thee from above," he not only sought, but earnestly sought, to release Him. But here was the point: "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend." Pilate knew well of what they could justly accuse him. Here is the power--the awful power--of a sinful life: it makes a man a coward, afraid to do right. We cannot help believing, as we read, that had Pilate then acted rightly, God's grace might have saved even him. He refused it: he sinned against conviction, and delivered up that Just One to be crucified. It was then of no use to try to appease a guilty conscience, and wash his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of tho blood of this Just Person." This is exactly what a certain class of hardened sinners always say, to whitewash their consciences, when they have led astray, by their example, some poor young man, some poor young woman. Beware, my dear friends, if you value your souls, of flattering yourselves that up to a certain point you had good intentions. You will not he .judged at the last day according to your good intentions, but according to your works.

But, hark! what are the crowd saying ? They sway to and fro, they cry out with the voice of one man, "Away with Him! Cruelty, Him! His blood be upon us and on our children." A fearful prayer! God sometimes answers such prayers, and fearfully this was answered by judgments on the Jewish nation. Have you never felt yourself carried away by the excitement of the crowd? So also was this Jew. He had heard in time past the words of teaching, of encouragement, of sympathy, of gentle and awful warning, which fell from the lips of our adorable Lord; but having resisted God's grace which hath appeared unto men, he had not the love of God in his heart: the words came to his lips as he joined in the chorus of the crowd, "Away with Him, crucify Him!" My friends, are we sure we should not have joined in that cry? Are there none here who have a conscience, like the ear which has become dull; which no longer thrills to the music of the voice of God and of His truth? whose conscience pleaded long, but pleads no longer? Do you know what it is to have had a godly father, a praying mother? Do you condemn the Jew? Do you know what it is to have had a kind and gentle teacher, who set before you faithfully all that this Jew heard, and a great deal more (for there was perhaps not a Jew in Jerusalem who had heard as much of the words of Jesus as you have heard), words full of love and full of warning, dropping gently into your ear Sunday after Sunday? Have you never heard the Gospel preached when the Spirit of God smote your heart as with the hammer of His truth?--when Christ, "the Light of tile World," has shown you in one broad glance that you are a sinner, that the world and its glories and delights are all passing away from you, and that you must make your choice between being ruled by the world or being ruled by Christ--that you must; choose once for all between Christ and Barabbas, between heaven and hell, cost what it may? When he has knocked at the door of your heart, have you let Him in? Do you know the joy of the past being forgiven and having Jesus for your guest? If it is not so with you, if on the contrary you scorn religion, if you despise the followers of Jesus who have the image of their Master, you, like the soldiers, have twisted some portion of His crown of thorns in the loud unfeeling laugh, in the sneer at religious people. Have you not, if you have persecuted Christ's followers, "mocked Him," "spit upon Him?" If you have not done this, have you not torn His loving heart when he offered to you a full, free, and eternal salvation, by coldly saying, "Go thy way at this time; when I have a more convenient season I will call for thee?" Or have you, like Judas, been once a follower of Christ, and betrayed your Lord? However great your sin, come, fellow sinner, with me, and see Him who had the hosts of heaven at His beck and call, sink under the weight of that cross they made Him hear.

"And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left." They have nailed to the cross those hands which fed the multitude, which opened the blind eye, which unstopped the deaf ears, those life-giving hands one touch of which raised the widow's dead, those feet under whose tread the strong waves grew calm. They have crucified Him at whose word the grave gave up its dead, who yet wept at the grave of Lazarus, who could share both the sorrow and joy of the lowly cottager at Bethany. But what are those words? Jesus speaks: surely he is pronouncing the well-earned doom of a world's basest ingratitude. No; the curse richly merited did not come from those pale and agonized lips: they were words of blessing :-"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Gaze at thy loving Saviour: if so be the eye of faith and the light of His Holy Spirit may show thee Jesus Christ and Him crucified as thy Lord and thy God. This is He "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness." "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him file iniquity of us all." "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." Remember, O guiltiest of sinners, remember, O my soul, that Jesus Christ died for thee. He who knew no sin was made a sin-offering for thee. Thou who thinkest a little sin may be indulged in, ask thyself, not what thy estimate of sin is, but what is God's estimate of it. His well-beloved Son left the heights of heaven to suffer all this, and to die for thee, and for me, poor guilty sinners. "Herein is love," unfathomable love, "not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." That Jesus whom thou now seest on the cross crucified for thee is "God manifest in the flesh." If thou art willing to accept him, this is the only condition. He is thy Saviour. Repent, and believe the Gospel. Repent, and all thy past sins shall be blotted out from the book of God's remembrance, and the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."

And there they crucified Him, and the two thieves on either side one. The time is far spent, and they are dying; and swiftly time is passing, sinner, to thee; gay and thoughtless as thou art, the inevitable hour must come. God has given thee life for a great and glorious purpose, to glorify him and to prepare thee for heaven. Thou canst not refuse the choice which is placed before thee; thou canst not even rid thyself of life, for after death is the judgment. There are three dying before thee, Christ and the two thieves. The impenitent thief feels that his hour is come; he snatches like a drowning man at a straw, and even in his railing he longs to be saved, but it is the salvation of the body he seeks. "If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. Let Christ the King of Israel descend from the cross and save us." Is there any one here who fondly hopes that he will find some way of escape which is not Christ's way? Will you defer the hour of repentance, and believe that when, to the last hour of your life, you have trampled under foot the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame, that you can then command the grace of a penitent heart? A death-bed repentance is not at our command. When ungodly men are dying, I fear Satan very often bars the door against Christian men who can speak of the Saviour's love. Godless relations do not like the thought of religion at such a time--how often the doctor tells them, and very rightly, to keep him perfectly quiet! and very quiet he is kept, and this ungodly man slips away from the world often without knowing his danger, and without one short hour to prepare to meet his God. And then his friends comfort themselves by the thought how gently and quietly he passed away; and to what?--from a life of sin to an awful eternity, having rejected in life and health a loving Saviour.

Let us look at the other picture of the penitent thief, and learn that if to this very hour thou hast no hope, and art without God in the world, however near thou art to that eternity to which we are all hastening, Jesus can save thee to the very uttermost. The penitent thief shewed godly sorrow and deep repentance. "We suffer justly, we have received the reward of our evil deeds; Lord, remember me when thou comest into Thy kingdom." Here we have living faith in Jesus as the Son of God. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." Tho penitent thief was in that moment justified and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God; and not only so, we have the proof that the work was a real work in his heart, by his pleading with his fellow-sinner. There is not one word here to make us believe that this thief had put off the hour of repentance, or that he had ever been a Christian, but rather that his day of grace was at the eleventh hour.

What words of joy to the dying man! "To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." What a change from agony to bliss! The penitent thief did not pass quietly away, surrounded with every comfort, but he died by the rough blow of the soldier, and in fearful agony.

Oh, my dear friends, may you and may I die, as our perfect pattern our blessed Lord and Saviour died, and through Him may we be able to triumph over all death's terrors. May we know both now and in that hour, that all our past sins are pardoned, and feel that all our lives long he has been preparing us, by his Holy Spirit, to meet that hour; and with hearts at one with God, full of blessed peace, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, may we be able to say with perfect confidence, "Father, into Thine hands I commit my spirit--Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of Truth."

          "Saviour, perfect my trust, 
          Strengthen the might of my faith; 
          Let me feel as I would when I stand 
          On the brink of the shore of death; 
          Feel as I would when my feet 
          Are slipping over the brink.
          For it; may be I am nearer home,
          Nearer now than I think."

My friends, the message of tho Gospel is very simple and very plain: "Repentance toward God, and faith "--loving trust and confidence--" toward our Lord Jesus Christ." He is our Saviour; he died for me. If your heart is willing to accept Him as your Saviour and your King, delay not a moment, come to Jesus for pardon now. He offers to you eternal salvation now. The Scripture says, "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation." Tomorrow may never come. The day of God's grace may never come again. Let me beg of you not to leave this place to-night without casting yourself before Him in prayer. If you have never prayed before, pray to-night. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" If you ask bread of your reconciled Father, will He give you a stone? Do you fear he will leave you? Did not our blessed Lord say, "I will not leave you comfortless (orphans); I will come to you?" He will send to you the Comforter, even His Holy Spirit. If you seek him day by day in prayer, you shall know that there is "now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." You will have the witness of the Spirit in your heart, that he is your reconciled Father, and that you are the child of God; and "perfect love" will "cast out fear." Just as an earthly father lifts his tender, loving, trusting, little child over the briars and thorns, pushing them aside, and treading them down, and making a way where there is not way, so will your Heavenly Father care for you! He will lift you over the thorns and briars that beset the narrow way in this wilderness world. Let us trust in Jesus, and the grave will be to us only the dark gateway which leads to that Paradise where we shall meet the holy and the blessed, and where we shall meet the loved ones who have gone before, and where we shall see that Savior who has died for us. Then shall we perfectly love him, and fully know the power of the Cross of Christ.